'I was turned away from eating disorder clinic because my weight wasn’t low enough"

Rose Anne Evans has received an award for her work with eating disorders charity Beat. Catherine Scott reports

Rose Anne Evans from York has won an award for her work with eating disorders charity Beat

Being turned away from an eating disorders treatment when she was a teenager because her ‘weight wasn’t low enough’ had a profound effect on Rose Anne Evans

“Getting a diagnosis was not easy, and, as is the case with many people, I was turned away because my weight wasn’t low enough,” explains Rose Anne, now 22, from York.

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“This just fuelled my eating disorder, and the voice inside my head told me I wasn’t good enough and should try harder. Both my physical and mental health deteriorated quite rapidly after that and, before I knew it, I was admitted to an in-patient unit.”

Rose Anne collecting her award from Beat

Rose Anne developed anorexia nervosa while at secondary school.

“My friends began to notice that I was isolating myself at lunchtimes, that I was always tired, and that I didn’t seem my usual upbeat and cheerful self.

“From my point of view, the eating disorder had taken away everything that I valued, including my friends and family, music, and sport. I felt like I had lost both my voice and my confidence, and I didn’t think I would ever find them again.

“It was a difficult time for both me and those around me, and there were times when I had lost hope.”

Rose Anne encourages people to make sock monkeys to raise awareness of eating disorders and mental health issues

But she found help through eating disorder charity Beat’s support services, which include Helplines, and online chat rooms where she could speak to others going through similar experiences.

“Using Beat’s support services helped me to feel less alone, and to realise that there were people out there who cared,” Rose Anne said.

Having been helped by the charity Rose Anne was determined to ‘give something back’ and support Beat as the charity had supported her and helped her stay determined in recovery. “I wanted to give something back to Beat by becoming an ambassador for the charity, and to help others affected by eating disorders in the hope that they wouldn’t have to go through what my family and I went through,” she said.

In 2017 Rose Anne, having found both her voice and her confidence again in her recovery, reached her goal of becoming a Young Ambassador for Beat.

In the same year she published her book, Fight for Freedom, which aims to raise awareness of Anorexia Nervosa, and to give guidance to those experiencing an eating disorder. Since then, she has used highly creative ways of raising awareness of the illnesses and to campaign for positive change, challenging stigma and the barriers that can prevent people getting treatment quickly.

“I love to personalise any activities I do by bringing my interests into my campaigning work.” For example, she has taken the “Sock It To Eating Disorders” campaign as inspiration for her “Socks On Tour” project, which raises awareness of eating disorders through sock-monkey-making. During Eating Disorder Awareness Week in February she encouraged people to make their own sock monkey and to take a SOCKITSELFIE.

She then invited people to pass on their sock monkey, to raise even more awareness.

She hopes that the project will continue to tackle misconceptions of these serious mental illnesses, and has some exciting plans for the project, which will be announced in the near future.

Her poem, The Journey, brought delegates to tears at Beat’s major conference for carers and medical professionals.

And last week she received an award for outstanding contribution to education and awareness of eating disorders, presented by Beat at a ceremony in London

“My main aim as an ambassador is to educate people about eating disorders and to provide hope to those affected,” says Rose Anne.

“I want to show people that there is life beyond an eating disorder.”

Speaking of the award she received, Rose Anne said: “I’m really grateful to be receiving the award, and feel privileged that I have been able to give back to the charity that helped me during a very difficult period of my life.

“I’m part of a team of individuals who work extremely hard to raise awareness of eating disorders, so the award is also dedicated to them, to the ones we love and to the ones we have lost.”

Beat’s Ambassador Programme Officer Zoe Raymond said, “Rose Anne has been truly inspiring in her efforts to create a culture where people feel cared for and know where to get help. Eating disorders are still often stigmatised and misunderstood illnesses, but Rose Anne’s excellent work is challenging those barriers.”